Head Coach Robert Saleh, 11.1

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Opening Statement:

Alright, I’m going to hit you guys with injuries real quick. So (George) Fant is dealing with an ankle. Corey Davis, obviously, has the hip. (Bryce) Huff has the back. (Trevon) Wesco knee, (Tevin) Coleman hammy (hamstring). Going to day-to-day on them, we’re not ruling any of them out as of now. Some of them have a chance to come back or all of them do.

 

Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, what do you need to see from Corey? Obviously, you have a short week, you’re not going to have a lot of time in practice, what do you need to see from him to play on Thursday?

Really just working with the performance staff and seeing if he’s got full strength and mobility out of his hip. Same thing for all of them. If they can show that they’ve got full strength and full mobility and full range of motion, then we’ll be good to go.

 

Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: Robert, just reviewing Mike’s (White) performance yesterday, just any second day takeaways on something that maybe you didn’t see as it was unfolding?

No, it was exactly like everyone saw. He was really good. A lot of those play designs were designed to push the ball, but we talked about it before, that Cincinnati was one of the top five teams in the league in terms of allowing explosive plays, so Mike LaFleur was calling plays to create explosives. They were doing everything they could to keep the ball upfront, which allowed for a lot of space underneath and Mike (White) did a really good job getting it to the guys underneath and then those guys did a really nice job creating yards after the catch.

 

DJ Bien-Aime, New York Daily News: Robert, most of Mike White’s passes were on the shorter end. From your perspective, how sustainable do you think basically dinking and dunking is for a quarterback?

That’s good, DJ. Football is a game of space, right? A lot of times, defense is going to dictate what space they give you. In the case yesterday, every game is going to play out differently. In yesterday’s case, Cincinnati gave space underneath, they took away the deep ball. That’s what they’ve been doing all year. Mike took the space. If Cincinnati would’ve crept up, then you guys saw that there was a play design where Elijah Moore got behind the defense immediately. That’s a cat and mouse game between coordinators and quarterback and receivers, all of it, DBs and defense. What space is the defense giving you? What is the defense taking away? And can you find it with your play designs and your play calling and then can the quarterback and receivers hit in stride? It is a cat and mouse game and credit to Mike, both Mike’s, Mike LaFleur and Mike White, just being able to execute the offense and get the ball into the hands of the playmakers in space.

 

Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, your post-game answer about anything is possible, when you were asked about Mike White possibly being a starter going forward here. It got a lot of attention. I’m just curious if you could clarify your stance on where you are when Zach (Wilson) is back healthy and is he the starting quarterback when he is healthy? 

You guys are awesome (laughter). Come on, Coz. I expect this out of Rich (Cimini), but the rest of you guys? I’m playing. Listen, the reality, hypothetical, I can be the next Vince Lombardi. The reality is, Mike played a really good game, we have a really short turnaround, we have to get ourselves going. The whole hypothetical thing, the focus is on this moment. Zach getting healthy is always at the forefront of our mind, but at the same time, and again it’s a hypothetical, just take the days as they come. That would be the best thing I can answer. If everything goes according to plan and Zach comes back and he’s healthy, we’ll address it when we cross that bridge.

 

Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: Robert, is there some element to the way that Mike has performed both in the fire drill in New England and then yesterday where you make a good argument for a guy to sit back, watch and learn a little bit. Is that part of what your thinking is if Mike continues to perform the way he did with regard to Zach? Is there any element to that in your mind? 

No, I think what it has done is it’s shown that we’ve got a really good quarterback room. The faith that we’ve had in Mike White since the beginning of OTAs and working with him and going through training camp despite all the outside noise of trying to bring in somebody else, he really had an opportunity to shine and he did and he did a really nice job. He’s proven a lot of people in this building right, so credit to him. All the performance did yesterday is show that we’ve got a pretty good quarterback room that we got a lot of faith in and we just have to take on this next day and get ready for a short week and go do it again.

 

(follow up) I know what you’re saying in terms of taking it day-by-day, but you do kind of know that you’re opening up a bit of a, or at least keeping an inch open of a Pandora’s box to some degree, aren’t you?

That’s for you guys to talk about, to be honest with you. I know exactly how we’ll operate; I know exactly what we’re looking for. If it’s something that you guys want to play with and have fun with, it doesn’t surprise me, but have fun.

 

Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, do you feel the need to talk to Zach about it at all because it’s out there right now?

Zach’s main focus is to do everything he can to get healthy. Work with the quarterbacks coach, keep the plan going exactly the way we’ve talked about it, get healthy and prepare himself to play football. That’s the main focus today. We’ll continue that focus with the intent to get him back playing as soon as he’s healthy. But like I said, we’re going to go day-by-day.

 

Rich Cimini, ESPN: You didn’t put him on IR, so what is your level of optimism that he could be ready for the Buffalo game?

We didn’t put him on IR because we feel confident that he’ll be, at the very least, be able to practice Buffalo week. By putting him on IR, we would’ve missed that week. So, we feel good about his chances for Buffalo. But at the very, very least, we feel really, really good about his ability to come in and practice that week as he continues to get healthy. The idea behind not putting him on IR was the fact that that would’ve been a missed week of work had we put him on IR because you can’t practice.

 

Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: What do you expect out of Mike as an encore, Robert, on Thursday night after what took place yesterday?

The expectation for Mike really is, again, it’s no different than coming off that brutal loss to the Patriots. You come in the next morning with an absolute focus on trying to focus to find ways to get better and improve on your performance to remain consistent and that’s really for the entire group. A lot of guys had really, really cool guys. Michael Carter had a great game. Elijah Moore did some things, the o-line was awesome in protection. Then on defense, just the explosive plays. CJ (Mosley) coming back, Jarrad Davis coming back, the DBs holding Ja’Marr Chase to his lowest output. There was a lot of cool stories that had happened in the course of the game on Sunday, but at the same time, now it’s time to put it to bed, get to the film, find ways to get better and get ready on a short week to try to remain, at least be consistent and take another step in the direction that we’re trying to get.

 

Dennis Waszak, Associated Press: Robert, (Brian) Costello asked you about having to talk to Zach, now do you have to talk to Joe (Flacco) now because he seemed to think he might have a shot at playing. I mean if Mike keeps playing this way, Joe might not play. So, do you have to have that kind of conversation with Joe, since he’s here now?

No. Again, the quarterback room is awesome. Josh Johnson came in and you guys saw him preform. We’re that close to him, he was that close to completing a touchdown drive of his own. So again, we love our quarterback room, they’re a pretty tight group, they’ve been communicating since OTAs. So, what we have is a good problem.

 

Reporter: Do you figure you’ll keep Josh Johnson active on Thursday? And Joe Flacco inactive, like the same as yesterday, at this point?

We’ll see. Obviously talk to Joe and see how he’s progressing and see his comfort level within the offense.

 

Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, from the outside, you look at it, and your offense preformed its best performance yesterday, with the 500 yards. You look at it, well the one thing that changed was the quarterback, but it’s not that simple. What did you see that made you think the offense just was able to break out like that yesterday?

One, I do think that it’s kind of a microcosm of the entire season in the sense that once the offense has gotten going, whether it was the second quarter, or the third quarter, we saw an offense that would move the ball regardless of who was at quarterback. What was cool yesterday was it happened on the first drive of the game, move the ball. And really just got all of the, call them jitterbugs if you will, the same thing that’s been happening every game, but we were able to get it out in the first drive of the game. Hit a lull there with the couple of interceptions, and the three and out, then another fumble, but the confidence that the guys had as the game continued was so high that it just came down to executing and getting the ball in the playmakers hands. And to the credit of those guys that, as the game went, they got more and more confident, better and better. It was really cool to watch as it progressed.

 

DJ Bien-Aime, New York Daily News: Robert, there was a noticeable change from the offensive standpoint because throughout the year you guys didn’t really throw much on first down. I think Zach, the most he threw on first down was like 14 times against Tennessee and Denver. Yesterday, Mike White threw on first down 23 times. So, what went into changing that approach?

It was one of those deals where the idea in the first 15 was just to let Mike rip and let him go, and just see if we can take some shots behind him, soften up the defense and all that. And Mike was doing a really good job moving the chains and keeping the offense on the field. He was making really good decisions. After a few shots on the defense, when you’re out there for so long, you start to get a feed of a defense and what their game plan is. You can get it pretty quick. By the middle of the second quarter, it was one of those deals where Mike had it. He knew the pitcher, all of them, the entire offense knew the pitcher, so it was just a matter of calling the best play possible for every situation and whether it’s run or pass.

 

Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, one play that didn’t get, maybe a lot of attention post-game yesterday from us, but watching it back, the first interception. Elijah (Moore) and Denzel (Mims), Elijah I think made the tackle, but Denzel was there too, those guys pursuing that play. What did they show you on that play?

The whole team, we always talk about the importance of one-yard and how that one-yard is everything, everything. Defense talks about, “Give us a blade of grass, and we’ll protect it.” Whether it’s protect it all the time, the result I don’t know. But I know they’re working their tails off to protect that blade of grass. And Elijah Moore, Denzel Mims, especially, how far he’s come this season, credit to those guys that just work their tails off. To get to do it on the ground, to give us a chance to play defense and protect that inch. It’s such a big deal. There are plays within a game that go unnoticed, but they’re everything. And without that play, we don’t get that goal line stand and who knows what happens, but a yard is everything. The game is decided by a yard, and shoot, that last play of the game came on a quarterback sneak for yards. So, it’s a big deal and it was pretty cool to see.

 

Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: Robert, with CJ Mosley, we were talking actually to Sheldon (Rankins) a little bit earlier today, and he was calling CJ a calming influence amongst the chaos. I know you inherited him, so to speak, but you obviously knew a lot about him before he got here. Can you speak to what he means to this team and how much of a part of your plan to change the culture here into a winning culture which, where he came from, is he about?

For sure. So, there’s a story worth writing. This dude, CJ, is unbelievable in every possible way you can imagine. From the player on the field, but you can go tenfold to the person off the field. His character, his work ethic, his willingness to do whatever he needs to put his teammates in the best position possible. He is an all-pro player, he’s an all-pro human. There isn’t enough good things that anyone can say about CJ, he just show up every single day and puts in the work and does the things necessary. He’s a team-first guy and one of the more selfless individuals I’ve ever been around. When you’re a new staff coming, and you meet the high-priced guy that has been a pro-bowler, it’s like, ‘Well, God, this guy might be a jerk.’ This dude is one of the classiest human beings I’ve ever been around. So, he deserves all the praise that this organization and this media market’s willing to give him.

 

DJ Bien-Aime, New York Daily News: Jamar Chase was tearing up the NFL for the most part and were able to hold him to three catches for 32 yards. I mean, you gave up one touchdown, but how were you guys able to limit his production?

Those DBs take a lot pride in the task. He was a big challenge. A lot of the explosive plays that Cincinnati has been able to generate has come through him, and it was challenge accepted between all of the DBs. Not just the corners, but safeties. There was a lot of great communications where, I’m not going to get too much into scheme on this one DJ, but there were some things where they were on an island and we’re trying to mix up that coverage as much as possible to keep them from creating that explosive play. They did get one behind us. They also caught one, Bryce (Hall) down the sideline, really really good catch by the young man for Cincinnati. But, I thought that Brick (Jeff Ulbirch) and Marquon (Manuel), Tony Oden did a heck of a job with regards to game plan and then the players did an unbelievable job executing it.

 

Kim Jones, NFL Network: I can’t remember which game it was that CJ called that audible that’s not allowed by you and Ulbrich and it all worked out. Given the answer you just gave on CJ, can he get away with doing that again?

CJ can get away with a lot of stuff.

 

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